Behind the Scenes: Meet our Research Team

Posted on May 1, 2018

This blog post highlights members of the 2017–2018 research team for Project Vox. The research team is a rotating group of students who collaborate to write new material for our site. This year the students wrote a new entry for Princess Elisabeth that will be available on our site soon pending review by our project team and advisory board.


What are your individual roles? 

Mattia Begali, Image Researcher: I find the images and contact each institution for permission and high-quality versions of the image.

Roy Auh, Lead Researcher: I am the lead researcher for the Princess Elisabeth project.

Katherine Owensby and Jen Semler, Research Assistants: We edit the content and assist Roy in anything he needs.


What is it like being the newest members of the Project Vox team? 

Katherine: It is cool to be a part of a team that is already so established, even if the team members change. I’ve learned so much about working on a digital humanities project by just attending the group meetings. There’s so much that we have to consider—funding sources, website development, and behind the scenes work by other members of the PV team.

Jen: I enjoy seeing how Project Vox is organized and how all of the members communicate digitally. The weekly agendas, research materials, and funding applications are available through the Box system through Duke. It is awesome to be able to see the development of the work.


What are the challenges of being on a research team?

Roy: It is challenging when members leave or graduate because you must be able to sift through their materials and understand their process of researching and then take over their research specialty.


How do you manage your time?

Roy: I just try to make deadlines for myself based on the discussion that we have in our group meetings. I know that I work longer hours closer to the deadline.

Mattia: After the initial research phase to find all of the images in various libraries and museums around the world, I really have to budget time contacting the various institutions. Once we make contact, I have to decide if we are willing to spend money on the image and manage our budget. Since I have to make contact with all of these individuals, I really have to think about managing my inbox!


Katherine, Jen, Roy, and Mattia


What brought you to the project?

Roy: Andrew Janiak is my adviser, so I joined the Project Vox team freshman year. It is so cool to be a part of a team that allows students to be a researcher on a project and present scholarly content on the website. Because of my interest in philosophy this project is a great way for me to learn about researching and learn about different collaborative projects as I think about how I want to continue my own educational journey. I should also note that I would like to pursue philosophy in graduate school. Being part of this team allows me to see what lies ahead for me in terms of research opportunities.

Mattia: I joined this project for two main reasons: first of all, being enrolled in a library science program with a specialization in digital librarianship, I was looking for opportunities to gain experience in digital curation. Also, next year at Duke I will work as a course manager for a class about digital publishing that will use Project Vox as its main platform. The class is meant to teach digital skills to graduate and undergraduate students interested in disseminating ideas via non-traditional strategies. In order to have a better sense of the opportunities and challenges involved with designing this course, I thought that it was crucial for me to become familiar with Project Vox first hand. Developing courses that promote experiential learning is fascinating, but it also requires a tremendous amount of preparation.

Jen: Bryce Gessell, another team member, teaches my History of Modern Philosophy class, and when he brought up that he worked on a research project about female philosophers in the early modern period, I was immediately interested in getting involved. After looking at the Project Vox website, I was so impressed by the work that the team had done and was eager to join and assist in any way possible.


What have you learned by working on Project Vox? 

Roy: It is amazing to see all of the work behind the scenes, especially the review of the website by our advisory board. I’ve learned new research techniques by working on a team and it’s been awesome to grow from a research assistant to a lead researcher. I first learned the research work flow from Olivia and Adela and now I’m able to pass on my knowledge to Katherine and Jen. Now I know the trusted sources and my way around the library and the available databases. I now get to teach people how to work on our project and create the material. I learned the most about the project management portion of a research project, not just the research. I also learned a lot about funding through grants, how to run efficient team meetings, and the importance of outreach and assessment.

Mattia: I’ve learned so much about the importance of image quality and image copyright, and am now more curious about software and the technical side of the project than I had been before. More generally, I really had the chance to explore how a community of practice like the Project Vox team interacts and collaborates. Behind the scenes of Project Vox there is a complex digital habitat meant to sustain the workflow of the group. Before joining the team of this project, I was only partially aware of how complex and stratified this digital habitat is. Also, it was fascinating for me to see how the role of each member gets defined by highly specialized practices.

Jen: Although I have only been on the team for a few weeks, I have already learned a lot about the research process. More specifically, I now have a better understanding of the many factors (finding sources, translating texts, acquiring images, applying for funding, etc.) that go into a large-scale research project like this. I am often impressed with all the work this team has been able to do and how well the team has communicated.


Final Thoughts? 

Roy: I’m very happy to see this project grow each year. I have been on the project for the long haul (3 years!). Working on the Project Vox team has given me the confidence to share my work and apply to conferences to talk about researching our philosophers. I am happy to see Project Vox grow not for its own sake, but to see that the mission of Project Vox, or bringing women philosophers into the light, has garnered enough attention to be able to grow.

Mattia: Through my work with Project Vox, I discovered the importance of striking a balance between outcomes and exploration in regards to digital publishing. You need to have a final product that is in keeping with the high standards of an academic publication. On the other hand, you also need to take into account that the goal of these projects is also to rethink the learning process. Achieving a balance between these two doesn’t only depend on your personal approach but also on the philosophy of the organization/group you are working in. In this regard, I think that the Project Vox team does an excellent job. I felt the pressure to be accountable but at the same time I felt free to explore new solutions and to adapt as I made mistakes along the way.

Jen: I’m looking forward to being part of the team as we begin work on our next philosopher. It will be great to see the research process from start to finish.



Mattia Begali received his Ph.D. in Italian Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012. Currently, he is enrolled in an M.A. program in Library and Information Science at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) with a concentration on digital libraries. As a future librarian, he is mostly interested in user experience and in developing a research agenda based on an ethnographic approach to information. At Duke, he is working as an intern for the Expansive DH Publishing project where is co-designing a qualitative study on how faculty creates and assesses digital projects.

Roy Auh is a junior at Duke studying philosophy, literature, and music. He is the lead researcher for Project Vox. In his free time Roy is the captain of the Tae Kwon Do team and studies comparative philosophy.

Katherine Owensby is a sophomore double majoring in Classical Languages and Linguistics. She’s excited to be joining Project Vox as a member of the research team. Her primary interests include both pragmatics in ancient legal practice and the intersection between philosophy and language. Currently, she is working on a sociophonetic study of her hometown, Charlotte, NC.

Jen Semler is a junior at Duke University studying philosophy, public policy, and economics. She recently joined the Project Vox team and is excited to get more involved.

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